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Quotation for today/Use Your
Bodies for God's Glory
01 Corinthians 06/12-20: " Someone will say, “I am allowed to do anything.” Yes; but not everything is good for you. I could say that I am allowed to do anything, but I am not going to let anything make me its slave. Someone else will say, “Food is for the stomach, and the stomach is for food.” Yes; but God will put an end to both. The body is not to be used for sexual immorality, but to serve the Lord; and the Lord provides for the body. God raised the Lord from death, and he will also raise us by his power. You know that your bodies are parts of the body of Christ. Shall I take a part of Christ's body and make it part of the body of a prostitute? Impossible! Or perhaps you don't know that the man who joins his body to a prostitute becomes physically one with her? The scripture says quite plainly, “The two will become one body.” But he who joins himself to the Lord becomes spiritually one with him. Avoid immorality. Any other sin a man commits does not affect his body; but the man who is guilty of sexual immorality sins against his own body. Don't you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and who was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourselves but to God; he bought you for a price. So use your bodies for God's glory."
Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources
A look at arsenal of Israel, Hezbollah/By: Yoav
Iran’s Plans to Take Over SyriaBrig.-Gen. (ret.)/Dr. Shimon Shapira/May 06/13
No 'Happy Easter in Egypt': The Muslim Brotherhood's Bizarre Religious Intolerance/By: Eric Trager/Washington Institute/May 06/13
Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for May 06/13
Israeli attacks inside Syria risks widening war
Arab League Urges U.N. to Stop Israel Attacks on Syria, Egypt Slams 'Aggression'
Israel strikes Syria again, rocking Damascus
Syrian rebel Coalition condemns Israel strikes
Officials: Israel Warplanes Hit Targets near Damascus, Including Iranian Missiles Destined for Hizbullah
Syria Says Israel Strike 'Opens Door to All Possibilities', Confirms Israel Coordinating with 'Terrorist Groups'
Israel Deploys Rocket Defense System in North amid Stepped up Activity on Lebanon Border
Faisal al-Meqdad Says Syria to Respond to Israel's 'Declaration of War'
Syrian Observatory: Commander of Besieged Minnigh Airport Killed
Tensions spike after new Israeli strikes in Syria
FSA: Our Operations Not Related to Israeli Attacks
Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Beirut Elias Audeh Calls for Unity Around Suleiman, Holding Polls on Time
Orthodox Christians Mark Jerusalem Holy Fire Rite
Hezbollah buries two members killed in Syria '
Iran Ready to 'Train' Syria Army, Condemns Israeli Airstrike
Suleiman Reiterates Calls on Lebanese to Abide by Dissociation Policy
Salam Rejects Veto Power in New Cabinet, Says it Equals Paralysis
Lebanon condemns Israel's use of airspace to strike Syria
Caretaker Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour Calls for 'Decisive' Arab League Stance on Israeli Airstrikes in Syria
Lebanese Pilgrims Appear in Video, Families Say 'We Don't Want to See Any Turk after May 22'
Hague: Lebanon is Constantly Threatened by Being Destabilized
Berri to Force MPs to 'Sleep in Parliament' over Vote Law Row
U.S. Generals Discuss Military Cooperation with Qahwaji
Arslan: From Now on, We're All Concerned with Defending Syria
Aoun's Envoy Ferzli Says Orthodox Plan Remains Number 1 Proposal after Meeting Geagea
Mesqawi Calls for Extraordinary HIC Meeting as Qabbani Holds Meeting for Newly-Elected Council
Lebanon Hands Over to ICRC Israeli Man who Crossed Technical Fence
At Least 30 Wounded in Blast at Tanzanian Church
Denmark, Finland to Upgrade Palestinian Diplomatic Status
Syria: Israeli attack equals declaration of war. Iron Domes at Haifa and Safed
DEBKAfile Special Report May 5, 2013
Syria's Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said Sunday, May 5, that the strike at Syria overnight represented a "declaration of war" by Israel. Russian and Iranian media earlier predicted full-scale Middle East hostilities involving Israel erupting in the coming hours, in the wake of Israel’s renewed strikes against Iranian missiles bound for Hizballah and other targets around Damascus. Russian sources reported rumors that President Bashar Assad was on the point of declaring war on Israel. Russia Today claimed that an Israeli rocket strike Sunday caused heavy Syrian casualties – according to rumors, at least 300 members of the Syrian Army’s 501st Unit dead and hundreds filling four Damascus hospitals. DEBKAfile: If this is confirmed, then the unit which operates the chemical weapon facility at the Barzeh district north of Damascus at the foot of Mt. Qassioun was hit. Israel’s security cabinet holds emergency session. The same Russian source reported that Syrian security forces cordoned off the sites of the explosions against entry. Residents reported after the blasts that the ground moved with the force of a 4 magnitude earthquake. Shortly after the Israel attacks in the Damascus area Sunday, the IDF posted additional Iron Dome anti-missile batteries in Haifa and Safed to defend those northern towns against incoming Syrian and Hizballah rockets. Low-ranking Syrian and Iranian officials responded to the Israeli attacks on Syria: Deputy Information minister His Al-Yiftah commented by saying that “a new foreign element had entered the Syrian conflict overnight and this would cause war.”In Tehran, an Iranian foreign ministry official condemned “Israeli aggression on Syria and accused Israel of fomenting instability and ethnic discord in the region. The commander of the ground forces asked if the war was not about to burst out of Syria’s borders, without answering the question. An Israeli official confirmed to AFP that Israeli had Sunday conducted a second round of strikes in three days on advanced weapons including Iranian F-110 weapons bound for Hizballah in transit at Damascus international airport. Syrian TV reported only an attack on the Jamraya military research center just north of Damascus. This was the same facility which Israeli planes attacked in January.
Israeli attacks inside Syria risks
By Christa Case Bryant, Nicholas Blanford | Christian Science Monitor –
Israel as well as Syria and its Lebanese-ally Hezbollah all have little interest in a wider conflict. But as Israel grows more assertive across its borders, the chance of a miscalculation is on the rise.
The sudden and dramatic escalation in Israeli air strikes against suspected military targets in Syria risks turning Syria’s two-year civil war into a regional conflict. Israel as well as Syria and its allies have an apparent interest in avoiding an escalation in the short-term, but a miscalculation on either side could ramp up the fighting.
“We are coming very close to it,” says Timur Goksel, a university lecturer in Beirut who served with the United Nations peacekeeping force in south Lebanon from 1979 to 2003. “A severe case of brinkmanship is being played at the moment.”
Syria and the Lebanon-based Shiite movement Hezbollah, which has long relied on Syria’s Assad regime to funnel weapons from Iran, appear to have been drawing into a closer alliance as the Syrian civil war intensifies. If Israel continues to launch air strikes into Syria, says Mr. Goksel, “they will have to react.… The Israelis are pushing it to the edge.”
A series of strikes on a military facility just outside Damascus last night has been widely attributed to Israel, which would make it the second Israeli attack on Syria in less than 48 hours and the third this year. Among the reported targets of the two latest attacks were consignments of Iranian Fateh-110 missiles reportedly intended for Hezbollah, which would allow the Syrian ally to launch precise attacks on Israeli targets such as Ben Gurion Airport or the defense ministry in Tel Aviv from launch pads as far north as central Lebanon.
Israel has stated that it will not allow “game-changing” weapons systems to fall into Hezbollah’s hands. But Hezbollah is believed to have acquired by 2009 a Syrian-engineered version of the Fateh-110, known as the M600. Both Syrian and Iranian versions carry a 1,100-pound warhead and have a range of some 150 miles. The M600 reportedly has a basic guidance system that allows it to strike within 500 yards of its target at maximum range, enabling more accurate strikes than Hezbollah’s other long-range missiles afford.
It is not clear whether Israeli jets have actually flown into Syrian airspace, or attacked from the nearby Lebanon border by firing at an angle into Syria. But Syria’s deputy foreign minister Faisal al Mekdad called Israel’s latest attack a “declaration of war” in an interview with CNN.
Despite longtime enmity between Israel and Syria, the two neighbors have not directly come to blows for almost four decades other than battling each other briefly in Lebanon in 1982. Israel has staged military moves inside Syria on a few occasions in the past decade – assassinating militants in Damascus, bombing a Palestinian training camp, and most notably by destroying a suspected nuclear reactor in northeast Syria in 2007. On each occasion, the Syrian regime has either ignored the incident or vowed a retaliation that was never fulfilled.
ISRAEL EYEING RED LINES
The uptick in Israeli strikes on Syria follows a week of intense debate in the United States over whether Syria’s regime has crossed President Obama’s red line of using chemical weapons against its own people. In Israel, there is a certain degree of apprehension over whether the US will follow through on this red-line threat to Syria. It’s seen in part by Israelis as a sort of litmus test for whether the US will uphold its promise to Israel in the event Iran crosses the red line Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu identified at the United Nations in September 2012.
Last week Brig. Gen. Itai Brun, head of the Research Division of Israel’s military intelligence, said at a security conference that the Assad regime had used chemical weapons on at least two recent occasions, but Obama has cautioned against hasty action before determining whether the evidence is indeed definitive.
“This is part of this idea that Israel signals – [albeit] not officially – to the States: ‘How can we trust you if you’re not intervening in Syria after you drew the red line? How can we trust you on Iran?” says Israeli security analyst Reuven Pedhazur.
That said, Israel’s priorities diverge somewhat from the stated US threshold for intervention. Israel’s concern is not whether Assad is using chemical weapons to kill his own people, but whether Hezbollah is acquiring more advanced missiles and other weapons, and also whether Syria’s significant chemical-weapons stockpile may fall into the hands of militants.
“We don’t care if they kill each other,” says Prof. Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar Ilan University. “We are more concerned about Hezbollah.”
ISRAEL-LEBANON BORDER QUIET
Since the end of the month-long war between Israel and Hezbollah in summer 2006, the Lebanon-Israel border has enjoyed its longest period of calm since the mid 1960s. Hezbollah has used the past seven years of quiet to expand its military capabilities both in terms of new recruits and more advanced weapons systems. But neither Hezbollah not Israel appear to desire a fresh conflict, mindful that the next encounter promises to be much more destructive than the 2006 war.
The number of Israeli overflights in Lebanese airspace so far this year is roughly double the rate of the same period in 2012, according to security sources in Lebanon. The rumble of Israeli aircraft over Beirut has become a near daily event along with the sight of twin white contrails in the sky marking the path of patrolling jets. The United Nations has repeatedly called on Israel to end the overflights above Lebanon, calling them “provocative.”
One possible way Hezbollah could retaliate against Israel’s air strikes is by attempting to shoot down an Israeli jet, analysts say. Little is known about Hezbollah’s air defense capabilities, although the group was reportedly trained on Russian mobile SA-8 Gecko anti-aircraft missiles from 2009. The target of the January Israeli air strike in Syria this year was reportedly a consignment of SA-17 Grizzly anti-aircraft missiles destined for Hezbollah. Shooting down an Israeli jet would be an unprecedented step by Hezbollah and risk a further escalation with Israel. On the other hand, Hezbollah would be able to justify such an act as the Israeli jet was illegally breaching Lebanese sovereignty.
Israelis, for their part, remain cautiously optimistic that neither Syria’s Assad regime nor its allies will risk opening a new front with Israel at a time of such upheaval. Nor could Syria or Hezbollah launch some sort of warning attack to deter Israel from further action, says Mr. Pedhazur.
“Israel will not back off,” he says. “If they respond, Israel will respond on the other side.”
Israel strikes Syria again, rocking Damascus
By Dominic Evans and Oliver Holmes
BEIRUT (Reuters) - Israel carried out its second air strike in days on Syria early on Sunday, a Western intelligence source said, in an attack that shook Damascus with a series of powerful blasts and drove columns of fire into the night sky. Israel declined comment but Syria accused the Jewish state of striking a military facility just north of the capital - one which its jets had first targeted three months ago. Iran, a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and an arch-enemy for Israel, urged states in the region to resist the Israeli attack. People living near the Jamraya base spoke of explosions over several hours in various places near Damascus, including a town housing senior officials: "Night turned into day," one man said. The Western intelligence source told Reuters the operation hit Iranian-supplied missiles headed for Lebanon's Hezbollah, a similar target to the two previous strikes this year, which have been defended as justifiable by Israel's ally the United States:
"In last night's attack, as in the previous one, what was attacked were stores of Fateh-110 missiles that were in transit from Iran to Hezbollah," the intelligence source said.
An Israeli official had confirmed a similar raid on Friday. In Lebanon, Hezbollah declined immediate comment.
Video footage uploaded onto the Internet by activists showed a series of explosions. One lit up the skyline of Damascus while another sent up a tower of flames and secondary blasts.
Syrian state media accused Israel of attacking in response to Assad's forces' recent successes against rebels who, with Western approval, have been trying to topple him for two years.
In 40 years since a war with a Syria then ruled by Assad's father, Israel has been locked in a cold standoff with Damascus, fought Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006 and is threatening to attack Iran, accusing Tehran of trying to develop nuclear weapons.
But it is wary of instability in Syria, has long viewed Hezbollah as the more immediate threat and has shown little enthusiasm for U.S. and European calls for Assad's overthrow.
The raid follows intense debate in the United States over whether the use of chemical weapons by Syrian troops might push President Barack Obama to intervene more forcefully on the rebel side, but Western powers remain concerned at the presence of anti-Western Islamist fighters among Assad's opponents.
It was unclear whether Israel sought U.S. approval for the action; in the past, officials have indicated that Israel sees a need only to inform Washington once a mission was under way.
At a routine public appearance, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made no direct reference to the strikes but spoke pointedly of his responsibility to ensure Israel's future.
He maintained a plan to fly to China later in the day, suggesting a confidence that, as with the raid in January, Assad - and Hezbollah - would limit any reprisal. However, an Israeli military source said the army had deployed more anti-missile defence systems near the northern borders in recent days.
NIGHT OF EXPLOSIONS
"The sky was red all night. We didn't sleep a single second. The explosions started after midnight and continued through the night," one man told Reuters from Hameh, less than a mile from the Jamraya military research facility.
"There were explosions on all sides of my house," he added, saying people hid in basements during the events.
Another witness spoke of fire near Qura al-Assad, a town around 5 km (3 miles) west of Jamraya where many high-level government officials live. In the centre of Damascus, people said their first thought was that there was an earthquake.
Identified by Syrian media as the Jamraya military research centre, the target was also hit by Israel in another assault on January 30. Jamraya, on the northern approaches to Damascus, is just 15 km (10 miles) from the Lebanese border.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the blasts hit Jamraya as well as a nearby ammunition depot.
Other activists said a missile brigade and two Republican Guard battalions may also have been targeted in the heavily militarised area just north of Damascus.
Reports by activists and state media are difficult to verify in Syria because of restrictions on journalists operating there.
People living in southern Lebanon said they heard frequent sounds of jets overhead and believed they were Israeli.
The streets of central Damascus were almost empty of pedestrians and traffic on Sunday morning, the start of the working week. Only a few shops were open. Checkpoints that have protected the government-controlled zone from rebel attack appeared to have been reinforced with additional men.
Syria's state television said the strikes were a response to recent military gains by Assad's forces against rebels: "The new Israeli attack is an attempt to raise the morale of the terrorist groups which have been reeling from strikes by our noble army," it said.
Speaking shortly before Sunday's attack, President Obama said Israel had a right to act: "The Israelis justifiably have to guard against the transfer of advanced weaponry to terrorist organisations like Hezbollah," he said.
In Israel, a military spokeswoman said of the attack in Syria: "We don't respond to this kind of report."
Netanyahu appeared at the dedication of a highway junction in memory of his late father. He made no reference to raids but said his father "taught me that the greatest responsibility we have is to ensure Israel's security and guarantee its future."
MISSILE "BETTER THAN SCUD"
Israel has repeatedly made clear it is prepared to use force to prevent advanced weapons from Syria reaching Hezbollah guerrillas, who fought a 34-day war with Israel seven years ago.
Uzi Rubin, an Israeli missile expert and former defence official said the Fateh-110 missile "is better than the Scud, it has a half-ton warhead". Iran has said it adapted the missile for anti-ship use by installing a guidance system, he added. With Assad battling the revolt, Israelis also worry that Islamist rebels among the majority Sunni Muslim population could loot his arsenals and eventually hit the Jewish state, ending four decades of relative cross-border calm. There was no immediate indication of how Syria would respond to Sunday's attack. After Israel's January raid, Damascus protested to the United Nations and the Syrian ambassador to Lebanon promised a "surprise decision", but no direct military retaliation followed. Iranian Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi was quoted by the ISNA news agency as saying on Sunday: "The Zionist regime's attack on Syria, which occurred with the U.S.'s green light, revealed the relationship between mercenary terrorists and their supporters and the regime occupying Jerusalem ... The evil actions of the Zionist regime can threaten the security of the entire region."
The uprising against Assad began with street protests that were met with force and grew into a bloody civil war in which the United Nations says at least 70,000 people have been killed.
Assad has lost control of large areas of north and eastern Syria, and is battling rebels on the fringes of Damascus.
But his forces have launched counter-offensives in recent weeks against the rebels around the capital and near the city of Homs, which links Damascus with the Mediterranean heartland of Assad's minority Alawites, who have religious ties to the Shi'ite form of Islam practised in Iran. Opposition activists said hundreds of Sunni families fled the coastal town of Banias on Saturday after fighters loyal to Assad killed at least 62 people and left bloodied and burned corpses piled in the streets. It was the second such alleged massacre in the area in the recent days. (Additional reporting by Mariam Karouny in Beirut, Marwan Makdesi in Damascus, Maayan Lubell and Dan Williams in Jerusalem and Arshad Mohammed and Phil Stewart in Washington; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Alastair Macdonald)
Officials: Israel Warplanes Hit Targets near Damascus, Including Iranian
Missiles Destined for Hizbullah
Naharnet/Israeli warplanes struck areas in and around the Syrian capital Sunday, setting off a series of explosions as they targeted a shipment of highly accurate, Iranian-made guided missiles believed to be on their way to Hizbullah, officials and activists said. The attack, the second in three days, signaled a sharp escalation of Israel's involvement in Syria's bloody civil war. Syria's state media reported that Israeli missiles struck a military and scientific research center near the Syrian capital and caused casualties.
An intelligence official in the Middle East, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to disclose information about a secret military operation to the media, confirmed that Israel launched an airstrike in Damascus early Sunday but did not give more precise details about the location. The target was Fateh-110 missiles, which have very precise guidance systems with better aim than anything Hizbullah has in its arsenal, the official told The Associated Press. A diplomatic source in Beirut told Agence France Presse three sites were targeted -- a military facility, a nearby weapons depot and an anti-aircraft unit in Sabura, west of the capital.
Israel has said it wants to stay out of the brutal Syria war, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly stated the Jewish state would be prepared to take military action to prevent sophisticated weapons from flowing from Syria to Hizbullah or other groups. On Sunday, Netanyahu delayed his departure on a trip to China by two hours, reportedly to attend a security cabinet meeting.
Syria's state news agency SANA reported that explosions went off at the Jamraya military and scientific research center near Damascus and said "initial reports point to these explosions being a result of Israeli missiles." SANA said there were casualties but did not give a number. "This new Israeli aggression is a clear attempt to alleviate the pressure on the armed terrorist groups after our army beat them back in several regions and after the army's victories on the road to recovering security and stability in Syria," SANA said. "This attack proves the direct involvement of the Israeli occupation in the conspiracy against Syria and its links with terrorist groups in the aggression supported by Western countries and some Gulf countries," SANA said of the latest strike.
An airstrike in January also targeted weapons apparently bound for Hizbullah, Israeli and U.S. officials have said.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an activist group, also reported large explosions in the area of Jamraya, a military and scientific research facility northwest of Damascus, about 15 kilometers (10 miles) from the Lebanese border.
Hizbullah's al-Manar TV said the research center in Jamraya was not hit. It added that an army supply center was targeted by the strike.Al-Manar quoted unnamed Syrian security officials as saying that three sites including military barracks, arms depots and air defense center were targeted by the strike.
Al-Mayadeen TV that has several reporters around Syria said one of the strikes targeted a military position in the village of Saboura, west of Damascus and about 10 kilometers (six miles) from the Lebanon border.
An amateur video said to be shot early Sunday in the Damascus area showed fire lighting up the night sky. The video appeared genuine and corresponded to other AP reporting.
Uzi Rubin, a missile expert and former Defense Ministry official, told the AP that if the target were Fateh-110 missiles as reported then it is a game changer as they put almost all Israel in range and can accurately hit targets.
Rubin emphasized that he was speaking as a rocket expert and had no details on reported strikes.
"If fired from southern Lebanon they can reach Tel Aviv and even (the southern city of) Beersheba." He said the rockets are much five times more accurate than the scud missiles that Hizbullah has fired in the past. "It is a game changer because they are a threat to Israel's infrastructure and military installations," he said. Israel's first airstrike in Syria, in January, also struck Jamraya.
At the time, a U.S. official said Israel targeted trucks next to the research center that carried SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles. The strikes hit both the trucks and the research facility, the official said. The Syrian military didn't confirm a hit on a weapons shipment at the time, saying only that Israeli warplanes bombed the research center.
Israeli lawmaker Shaul Mofaz, a former defense minister and a former chief of staff, declined to confirm the airstrike but said Israel is concerned about weapons falling into the hands of the group amid the chaos of Syria's civil war. "We must remember that the Syrian system is falling apart and Iran and Hizbullah are involved up to their necks in Syria helping Bashar Assad," he told Israel Radio. "There are dangers of weapons trickling to the Hizbullah and chemical weapons trickling to irresponsible groups like al-Qaida." Likud lawmaker and former Defense Committee chairman Tzahi Hanegbi also stopped short of confirming that Israel struck Syrian targets, but warned that the Jewish state would not tolerate a situation in which Hizbullah profited from the civil war in Syria.Source/Agence France PresseAssociated Press/Naharnet.
Iran Ready to 'Train' Syria Army, Condemns Israeli Airstrike
Naharnet /Iran is ready to help "train" the Syrian army if Damascus seeks such assistance, the commander of the Islamic republic's army ground forces, General Ahmad Reza Pourdastan, was quoted as saying on Sunday.
"As a Muslim nation, we back Syria, and if there is need for training we will provide them with the training, but won't have any active involvement in the operations," he said in remarks reported by the official IRNA news agency.
"The Syrian army has accumulated experience during years of conflict with the Zionist regime (Israel) and is able to defend itself and doesn't need foreign assistance," he added. Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman also condemned an Israeli airstrike in Syria on an alleged shipment of Iranian-made missiles. Ramin Mehmanparast was quoted by the semiofficial Fars news agency as denouncing the attack on the missiles, which were believed en route to Hizbullah. It's the first Iranian comments since Israel launched a first round of airstrikes on Friday, then another round on Sunday. Mehmanparast urged countries in the region to remain united against Israel, but gave no other suggestions of possible further action in response. Source/Agence France PresseAssociated Press.
Arab League Urges U.N. to Stop Israel Attacks on Syria, Egypt Slams 'Aggression'
Naharnet/Egypt on Sunday condemned Israeli air strikes on Syria, with the Arab League also demanding that the U.N. Security Council act to stop what it called Israeli "attacks" against the war-torn country. The Egyptian presidency said in a statement the air strikes "violated international law and principles that will further complicate the situation." The raids reportedly targeted rockets destined for Lebanon's Hizbullah. The Arab League, which like Egypt sides with rebels against Syrian President Bashar Assad, demanded the Security Council "act immediately to end Israeli attacks on Syria," which it called a "dangerous violation of an Arab state's sovereignty." The presidency in Cairo affirmed "its extreme opposition" to the Syrian regime's bloody crackdown on rebel-held areas, but accused Israel of "exploiting its internal conflict." A senior Israeli source said an overnight aerial assault hit Iranian weapons destined for Hizbullah, which is closely allied to the Syrian regime. A diplomatic source in Beirut told Agence France Presse three sites were targeted -- a military facility, a nearby weapons depot and an anti-aircraft unit in Sabura, west of the capital Damascus.Source/Agence France Presse
Caretaker Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour Calls for 'Decisive' Arab League Stance on Israeli Airstrikes in Syria
Naharnet/Caretaker Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour urged the Arab League on Sunday to take a “decisive stance” from the recent Israeli airstrikes in Syria. Mansour condemned “the assault and the silence of the international community on the repeated Israeli aggressions on more than one Arab country.” He called on “the Arab League to take a decisive stance from this dangerous development to avoid” further escalation. Mansour accused Israel in his statement of “preparing for a largescale invasion to blow up the region and push it to a destructive confrontation.” Israel carried out on Sunday what an intelligence official said was an airstrike in Damascus that allegedly attacked a shipment of Iranian-made missiles bound for Hizbullah. It was the second Israeli strike in three days. But the Syrian state news agency SANA reported early Sunday that explosions went off at the Jamraya research center near Damascus, causing casualties. "Initial reports point to these explosions being a result of Israeli missiles that targeted the research center in Jamraya," SANA said.
Syria Says Israel Strike 'Opens Door to All Possibilities', Confirms Israel Coordinating with 'Terrorist Groups'
Naharnet/Israeli strikes on Syrian military sites have opened the door "to all possibilities" and made the situation in the region "more dangerous," Syria's government said on Sunday. "The government of the Syrian Arab Republic confirms that this aggression opens the door wide to all possibilities," the cabinet said in a statement read at a news conference by Information Minister Omran al-Zohbi. "The international community should know that the complex situation in the region has become more dangerous after this aggression," the statement added. Syria "has not just a right but a duty to protect the homeland and the state and the people from any attack, whether internal or external, by all ways and means and capabilities available," it said. The comments came after the cabinet held an emergency meeting to discuss what the foreign ministry described as at least three Israeli strikes on Syrian military sites overnight. In letters to the United Nations Security Council, the foreign ministry accused Israel of coordinating with "terrorist groups" including the al-Nusra Front rebel group that has pledged allegiance to al-Qaida. A senior Israeli source said the attacks early on Sunday hit Iranian weapons destined for Lebanon's Hizbullah. "The blatant Israeli aggression against military sites in Syria confirms the coordination between Israel and terrorist groups and the takfiris of al-Nusra Front, which is a branch of al-Qaida," the ministry said in a letter to the United Nations. The ministry said the support was intended to boost "terrorist groups after the failure of their recent attempts to achieve control on the ground.""This leaves no doubt that Israel is the beneficiary, the engine and sometimes the executor of the terrorist attacks taking place in Syria against the state and the people," the letter added. The letter said allegations that Syria was transferring anything outside its borders were "unfounded," in reference to claims that Israel was targeting weapons bound for Hizbullah in Lebanon. It said the Jewish state targeted three sites from Israeli and Lebanese airspace. "Around 01:40am, Israeli military aircraft over the occupied territories and south Lebanon launched an aerial aggression by firing missiles against three positions belonging to the armed forces of the Syrian Arab Republic," the letter said. Syria uses the term "occupied territories" to refer to Israel, and the occupied West Bank, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights.
"This aggression caused deaths and injuries and serious destruction at the sites and in the surrounding civilian regions," the letter said. Source/Agence France Presse.
A look at arsenal of Israel, Hezbollah
By: Yoav Zitun/Ynetnews/05.05.13,
While details into strike on Damascus still examined, expert analyzes Israeli weapons versus Hezbollah ammunition; from Spice-2000 to Fateh-110 missile
Jets which struck Syria did so while flying above Lebanese airspace and using missiles operated under stand-off technology, according to Reuters and other sources. These missiles allow for high accuracy while launching dozens of kilometers from a target.
Though Israeli confirmation of the strike was only done anonymously, analysts note that IAF arsenal includes several stand-off missile variations, among them the Popeye and the Spice-2000 – both manufactured by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. The Spice became operational in 2003 and its use went public over the last six years.
The Spice system allows for "drop-and-forget" launch mode, meaning that once it is launched, it requires no additional guidance. The Spice can hit targets at up to 60 km.
Spice-2000: Autonomous operations, visual targeting
An autonomous missile, the Spice can be pre-programmed with a photograph of its target, and knows to hone itself in on it. The Spice is known for its destructive capabilities, its ability to perform accurately under any weather conditions, and its ability to remain neutral to attempts at disruption or deception by the enemy.
A missile expert who spoke with Ynet estimated that the Air Force used the Spice-2000 in its most recent strikes on Syria. According to the source, the Spice-2000 provides “high accuracy at low risk. It is immune to disruption, due to the fact that you provide early visual intelligence, thus making it unnecessary to use the GPS, which can be distorted.”
The missile has another benefit, in the form of a reduced radar signature. While the Popeye has a rocket motor which burns fuel and makes it detectable, the Spice glides toward its target using wings. “This is a missile which saves on the preliminary flight over a target, makes visual contact with its target, and also avoids anti-aircraft systems,” the source said,
Popeye: Sends video to operator
The Popeye is considered one of the big development successes of Israel’s military industry. Since its development in the 1970s and its introduction to the Air Force in 1985, it has been sold to foreign militaries including the US, India, Turkey, South Korea and Australia. Its use was first publicized in the media during the Gulf War, when a US B-52 bomber was photographed carrying it. The missile can reach land targets, including missile launchers, without being exposed to enemy anti-aircraft systems. The Popeye missile has been upgraded over the years, with one of its versions, according to foreign reports, enabling launch from a submarine.
The missile head carries a television camera, allowing for it to be directed by its operator and locked onto its target, even after launching from the plane. Additionally, the Popeye's internal navigation system leads it directly to its target. The missile carries 350 kg of explosives. It weighs 1,320 kg and is 4.5 meters in length. The Popeye can be launched against targets at sea, and is effective even at night or under adverse weather conditions.
Fateh 110: Precise, deadly, reaches Tel Aviv
A shipment of Fateh 110 missiles manufactured by Iran and meant for the Hezbollah was the target of the Israeli Air Force in an attack on Damascus International Airport on Friday, and a later attack at a military research facility north of the capital city, said Western intelligence sources Sunday morning, following the second strike.
The Fateh 110 is manufactured by Iran, and first came to view in 2001. The initial version was operational at a distance of 170 km, carrying a head of 250 kg of explosives. Since its introduction, three upgrades have taken place, all powered by solid fuel and capable of longer ranges and increased precision.
The current version shows substantial improvements over earlier productions. It went on display in Iran in 2010. According to the Iranians, it can reach a distance of 300 km and its warhead carries a half ton of explosives. In 2007, Arab and Israeli media sources reported that Hezbollah had received a number of these missiles, though the specific model was not identified.Hezbollah members were reported to have visited Iran to train in the maintenance and launch of Fateh missiles, before returning to Lebanon. According to reports, the Hezbollah also received copies of the Fateh missile, manufactured in Syria under the sponsorship of Iran. The Syrian version of the Fateh 110, known as the M-600, is considered to be the most evident threat to the Israeli home front.
It is likely that the recent shipments of arms to Syria was of this version of the missile, which possess high accuracy at up to 100 meters or less of a target. According to reports, the latest Fateh missiles are capable of reaching Tel Aviv and even further south, when launched from neighboring Lebanon.
Fateh missiles are capable of “course correction,” via small wings found on their head. Running on solid fuel, they can be launched stealthily, remaining virtually hidden almost to the moment of operation. This makes the Fateh 110 difficult to target from the air.
With these qualifications, the Fateh missile is highly coveted by the Hezbollah, and Damascus has high motivation to provide them. It is likely that these missiles are also being used by the Syrian army against the rebels.
*Ron Ben-Yishai contributed to this report
Iran’s Plans to Take Over SyriaBrig.-Gen. (ret.)
Dr. Shimon Shapira, May 2, 2013
Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Vol. 13, No. 10 5 May 2013
■In mid-April, Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah paid a secret visit to Tehran where he met with the top Iranian officials headed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Gen. Qasem Suleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guard Corps. Suleimani prepared an operational plan named after him based upon the establishment of a 150,000-man force for Syria, the majority of whom will come from Iran, Iraq, and a smaller number from Hizbullah and the Gulf states.
■Suleimani’s involvement was significant. He has been the spearhead of Iranian military activism in the Middle East. In January 2012, he declared that the Islamic Republic controlled “one way or another” Iraq and South Lebanon. Even before recent events in Syria, observers in the Arab world have been warning for years about growing evidence of “Iranian expansionism.”
■An important expression of Syria’s centrality in Iranian strategy was voiced by Mehdi Taaib, who heads Khamenei’s think tank. He recently stated that “Syria is the 35th district of Iran and it has greater strategic importance for Iran than Khuzestan [an Arab-populated district inside Iran].” Significantly, Taaib was drawing a comparison between Syria and a district that is under full Iranian sovereignty.
■Tehran has had political ambitions with respect to Syria for years and has indeed invested huge resources in making Syria a Shiite state. The Syrian regime let Iranian missionaries work freely to strengthen the Shiite faith in Damascus and the cities of the Alawite coast, as well as the smaller towns and villages. In both urban and rural parts of Syria, Sunnis and others who adopted the Shiite faith received privileges and preferential treatment in the disbursement of Iranian aid money.
■Iran is also recruiting Shiite forces in Iraq for the warfare in Syria. These are organized in a sister framework of Lebanese Hizbullah. Known as the League of the Righteous People and Kateeb Hizbullah, its mission is to defend the Shiite centers in Damascus. It is likely that Tehran will make every effort to recruit additional Shiite elements from Iraq, the Persian Gulf, and even from Pakistan.
Iran Cannot Afford to Lose Syria
In mid-April, Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah paid a secret visit to Tehran where he met with the top Iranian officials headed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the commander of the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guard Corps, Gen. Qasem Suleimani, who is in charge of Iranian policy in Lebanon and Syria. The visit was clandestine and no details were divulged on an official level – except for the exclusive posting on Hizbullah’s official website of a photograph of Khamenei with Nasrallah beside him in the former’s private library, with a picture of Ayatollah Khomeini above them.1
Suleimani’s involvement in the meeting with Nasrallah was significant. He has been the spearhead of Iranian military activism in the Middle East. In January 2012, he declared that the Islamic Republic controlled “one way or another” Iraq and South Lebanon.2 He now appeared to be prepared to extend Iran’s control to all of Syria.
A media source normally hostile to Iran and Hizbullah but which nonetheless contains accurate information, reported that Iran has formulated an operational plan for assisting Syria. The plan has been named for Gen. Suleimani. It includes three elements: 1) the establishment of a popular sectarian army made up of Shiites and Alawites, to be backed by forces from Iran, Iraq, Hizbullah, and symbolic contingents from the Persian Gulf. 2) This force will reach 150,000 fighters. 3) The plan will give preference to importing forces from Iran, Iraq, and, only afterwards, other Shiite elements. This regional force will be integrated with the Syrian army. Suleimani, himself, visited Syria in late February-early March to prepare the implementation of this plan.3
In the past, senior Iranian officers, like Major General Yahya Rahim-Safavi, the former commander of the Revolutionary Guards who is an adviser to Khamenei, have said that Lebanon and Syria gave Iran “strategic depth.”4 Now it appears that Tehran is taking this a step further, preparing for a “Plan B” in the event Assad falls.
Nasrallah rarely makes such trips. The last time he went on a visit outside Lebanon was in February 2010 when he met in Damascus with Syrian President Bashar Assad and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Nasrallah has taken great care not to appear in public since the Second Lebanon War in 2006, and even more so since the assassination of the head of Hizbullah’s military wing, Imad Mughniyeh, in Damascus in February 2008. Even in Iran itself Nasrallah maintained total secrecy for fear of becoming an assassination target there. After the visit, he gave a speech in Lebanon on April 30, but did not say anything about his visit to Iran. He did remark that Syria “has real friends” that wouldn’t let it fall, implying that, if necessary, he would redouble his efforts to defend Iranian interests, which has always been one of the missions of Hizbullah.
It appears that Hizbullah’s ongoing involvement in Syria, and the extent of this involvement, formed the main issue on the agenda during Nasrallah’s visit to Tehran. The more time passes, the more Iran appears to regard Syria as a lynchpin of its Middle Eastern policy, in general, and of leading the jihad and the Islamic resistance to Israel, in particular. Hizbullah’s inclusion in the armed struggle in Syria is intended first and foremost to serve the Iranian strategy, which has been setting new goals apart from military assistance to the Syrian regime. Iran already seems to be looking beyond the regime’s survivability and preparing for a reality where it will have to operate in Syria even if Assad falls. Even before recent events in Syria, observers in the Arab world have been warning for years about growing evidence of “Iranian expansionism.”5
An important expression of Syria’s centrality in Iranian strategy was voiced by Mehdi Taaib, who heads Khamenei’s think tank. He recently stated that “Syria is the 35th district of Iran and it has greater strategic importance for Iran than Khuzestan [an Arab-populated district inside Iran]. By preserving Syria we will be able to get back Khuzestan, but if we lose Syria we will not even be able to keep Tehran.”6 Significantly, Taaib was drawing a comparison between Syria and a district that is under full Iranian sovereignty. What was also clear from his remarks was that Iran cannot afford to lose Syria.
Syria as a Shiite State
All in all, then, Iran will have to step up its military involvement in Syria. Khamenei’s representative in Lebanon will have to take part in building the new strategy in Syria, acting in tandem with Iran against the Sunni Islamic groups that threaten Iran’s interests in Syria.
Tehran has had political ambitions with respect to Syria for years and has indeed invested huge resources in making Syria a Shiite state. The process began during the rule of Hafez Assad when a far-reaching network was created of educational, cultural, and religious institutions throughout Syria; it was further expanded during Bashar’s reign. The aim was to promote the Shiization of all regions of the Syrian state. The Syrian regime let Iranian missionaries work freely to strengthen the Shiite faith in Damascus and the cities of the Alawite coast, as well as the smaller towns and villages.7 A field study by the European Union in the first half of 2006 found that the largest percentage of religious conversions to Shiism occurred in areas with an Alawite majority.8
In both urban and rural parts of Syria, Sunnis and others who adopted the Shiite faith received privileges and preferential treatment in the disbursement of Iranian aid money. The heads of the tribes in the Raqqa area were invited by the Iranian ambassador in Damascus to visit Iran cost-free, and the Iranians doled out funds to the poor and financial loans to merchants who were never required to pay them back..9 The dimensions of the Iranian investment in Raqqa, which included elegant public buildings, mosques, and Husayniyys (a Shiite religious institute), were recently revealed by Sunni rebels who took over the remote town and destroyed, plundered, and removed all signs of the Iranian and Shiite presence there.10
As of 2009 there were over 500 Husayniyys in Syria undergoing Iranian renovation work. In Damascus itself the Iranians invested huge sums to control the Shiite holy places including the tomb of Sayyida Zaynab, the shrine of Sayyida Ruqayya, and the shrine of Sayyida Sukayna. These sites attract Iranian tourism, which grew from 27,000 visitors in 1978 to 200,000 in 2003.
Iran also operates a cultural center in Damascus that it considers one of its most important and successful. This center publishes works in Arabic, holds biweekly cultural events, and conducts seminars and conferences aimed at enhancing the Iranian cultural influence in the country. The Iranian cultural center is also responsible for the propagation and study of the Persian language in Syrian universities, including providing teachers of Persian.11
Iran’s Sponsorship of Shiite Forces in Syria
At present, bloody battles are being waged over the centers of Iranian influence in Syria, most of all the mausoleum of Sayyida Zaynab – sister of the Imam Husayn – who in 680 carried his severed head to Damascus after the massacre at Karbala. In Iranian historiography, the great victory over the Sunnis is marked in Damascus in the form of a Shiite renaissance in the capital of the hated Umayyad Empire. The Sunnis, however, are now threatening these Iranian achievements. Hizbullah has been recruited to the cause, with hundreds of its fighters coming to Syria from Lebanon. These fighters try to downplay their Hizbullah affiliation and instead identify themselves as the Abu El Fadl Alabbas Brigade, named after the half-brother of the Imam Husayn.
Iran is also recruiting Shiite forces in Iraq for the warfare in Syria. These are organized in a sister framework of Lebanese Hizbullah. Known as the League of the Righteous People and Kateeb Hizbullah, its mission is to defend the Shiite centers in Damascus.12 Hizbullah fighters are also operating in other areas, some of them beyond the Lebanese border in the Shiite villages in Syrian territory on the way to Homs, thereby creating a sort of territorial continuity for ongoing Alawite control under Iranian influence. This continuity is strategically important to Iran since it links Lebanon and Damascus to the Alawite coast.13 Iran aims to have a network of militias in place inside Syria to protect its vital interests, regardless of what happens to Assad.14
The war in Syria persists with no decisive outcome on the horizon. Hizbullah’s battle losses are growing. Subhi Tufayli, the first head of Hizbullah who was dismissed from its leadership by Iran at the start of the 1990s, has been one of the prominent critics of Hizbullah’s involvement in Syria. Tufayli claimed that 138 Hizbullah fighters had been killed there along with scores of wounded who were brought to hospitals in Lebanon.15 Ceremonies for burial of the dead are frequently held clandestinely, sometimes at night, so as to avoid anger and resentment. These casualties, however, did not disappear from sight, and the families have raised harsh questions about such unnecessary sacrifice that is not in the sacred framework of jihad against Israel, which is Hizbullah’s raison d’être.
Tufayli, for his part, asserted that Hizbullah fighters who are killed in battle in Syria “are not martyrs” and “will go to hell.” Syria, he remarked, “is not Karbala” and the Hizbullah men in Syria “are not fighters of the Imam [Husayn]. The oppressed and innocent Syrian people is Karbala and the members of the Syrian people are the children of Husayn and Zaynab.” Tufayli went on to say that he “lauds the fathers and mothers who prevent their children from going to Syria and says to them that God’s blessing is with them.” Tufayli further pointed out that, legally speaking, no fatwa has been issued that permits Hizbullah’s participation in the war in Syria. He said he had appealed to the supreme religious authority – the sources of emulation (Maraji Taqlid) in Najaf and in Lebanon – not to issue such a fatwa.16
In the Lebanese Shiite community, Tufayli is not alone in leveling severe criticism at Hizbullah’s role as an arm of Iran in Syria. Voices within Hizbullah itself are increasingly casting doubt on the wisdom of involving the movement on Bashar Assad’s side. Others refuse to go and fight in Syria, and there have already been desertions from Hizbullah’s ranks. So far, though, it does not appear that all this is deterring Hizbullah from persisting. At the end of the day, Hizbullah is not a Lebanese national movement but a creation of Iran and subject to its exclusive authority. Nasrallah was summoned to Tehran so as to encourage him and order him to continue as a faithful and obedient soldier of Velayt-e Faqih (literally: the Rule of the Jurisprudent, referring to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei).
It is likely that Tehran will make every effort to recruit additional Shiite elements from Iraq, the Persian Gulf, and even from Pakistan. For the Islamic Republic, this is a war of survival against a radical Sunni uprising that views Iran and the Shiites as infidels to be annihilated. This is the real war being waged today, and it is within Islam. From Iran’s standpoint, if the extreme Sunnis of the al-Qaeda persuasion are not defeated in Syria, they will assert themselves in Iraq and threaten to take over the Persian Gulf, posing a real danger to Iran’s regional hegemony. Khamenei does not intend to give in. Hizbullah’s readiness to fight shoulder-to-shoulder with Iran against the radical Sunnis could shatter the delicate internal order upon which the Lebanese state is based and bring about a Hizbullah take-over of Lebanon in its entirety.
* * *
1. On the picture and its significance, see Ali al-Amin, Al-Balad, April 23, 2013, http://www.alahednews.com.lb/essaydetails.php?eid=74383&cid=76.
2. “Chief of Iran’s Quds Force Claims Iraq, South Lebanon under His Control, Al Arabiya News, January 20, 2012, http://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2012/01/20/189447.html.
3. A-Shiraa, March 15, 2013.
4. Nevvine Abdel Monem Mossad, “Implication of Iran Accepting Military Role in Syria, Lebanon,” The Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research, October 7, 2012.
5. Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed, “Iran and Its Expansionist Tendencies,” Arab News, February 6, 2013, http://www.arabnews.com/iran-and-its-expansionist-tendencies; “US Embassy Cables: Omani Official Wary of Iranian Expansionism,” The Guardian, November 28, 2010, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/us-embassy-cables-documents/165127.
6. Ali-al-Amin, Al-Balad, February 17, 2013.
7. On the Shiization of Syria, see Khalid Sindawi, “The Shiite Turn in Syria,” Hudson Institute, Current Trends in Islamist Ideology, vol. 8, 82-127, http://www.currenttrends.org/research/detail/the-shiite-turn-in-syria.
8. Ibid., 84.
9. Ibid., 89-90.
10. Martin Kramer, “The Shiite Crescent Eclipsed,” April 16, 2013, http://www.martinkramer.org/sandbox/2013/04/the-shiite-crescent-is-broken.
11. Nadia von Maltzahn, “The Case of Iranian Cultural Diplomacy in Syria,” Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication 2 (2009): 33-50.
12. Rabbiah Jamal, “Iraq’s Kateeb Hezbollah announces involvement in Syria,” Now Lebanon, April 7, 2013.
13. See the excellent article by Hanin Ghadder, “Hezbollah sacrifices popularity for survival: In Syria, The Party of God is struggling for an un-divine victory,” Now Lebanon, April 10, 2013.
14. Karen DeYoung and Joby Warrick, “Iran and Hezbollah Build Militia Networks in Syria in Event that Assad Falls, Officials Say,” The Washington Post, February 10, 2013, http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-02-10/world/37026054_1_syrian-government-forces-iran-and-hezbollah-president-bashar.
15. www.metransparent.com, April 25, 2013.
16. Subhi Tufayli, interview, Al Arabiya, February 26, 2013.Publication: Jerusalem Issue Briefs Filed Under: Hizbullah, Iran, Israeli Security, Radical Islam, Syria, The Middle EastTags: Hizballah, Iran, Syria
Hezbollah buries two members killed in Syria
Now Lebanon/Hezbollah buried on Saturday two of its members “who died in battles against the Free Syrian Army in Syria.”Wafiq Ali Hamiyeh was buried in the Baalbek town of Tarayya and Ali Hassan Mortada was buried in the Beqaa town of Temnin al-Tahta, sources added. Hezbollah has come under criticism for fighting on the side of the Syrian regime against rebels in the Al-Qusayr area and outside Damascus, with news outlets in the past weeks reporting that a number of party members had been killed while fighting in Syria. However, Hezbollah’s Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah denied on Tuesday that large numbers of fighters affiliated with his party had been killed in the fighting in Syria. Nevertheless, he vowed that “friends” of the Syrian regime would not allow it to fall and that his party would defend Lebanese Shiites residing in Al-Qusayr as well as the Sayyida Zainab Shiite shrine outside Damascus. Elite fighters from Hezbollah are leading the fight against rebels in the region of Al-Qusayr in the central province of Homs, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said last week.
Berri to Force MPs to 'Sleep in Parliament' over Vote Law Row
Naharnet /Speaker Nabih Berri has vowed to force lawmakers to hold intense talks at the parliament for several days this month until they reach agreement on a new electoral law. “You will see what I will do on May 15. I will let MPs sleep at the parliament for three or four days until they come up with a law,” pan-Arab daily al-Hayat quoted him as saying. “Until now, there isn't any law,” Berri said after using the Turkish word Yok, which means nonexistent. But the speaker will make “a new proposal” if the rival parties failed to reach consensus on the vote law by the date he has set for a general assembly. He refused to give any details, only saying that he will reveal his plan “at the appropriate time.” Berri ruled out a prolonged postponement of the elections, saying “as soon as we agree on a new electoral law in parliament, we could set the timeframe of the postponement that the interior minister needs” to be able to prepare for the polls. The rival parties have so far failed to agree on a new law despite several proposals made by different blocs and leaders. Only the so-called Orthodox Gathering proposal has been approved by the joint parliamentary committees despite the rejection of al-Mustaqbal bloc, the National Struggle Front and the March 14 independent lawmakers. Officials who visited Berri quoted him as saying that the Lebanese Forces and the Phalange party, who were among the proposal's staunch supporters along with their rivals in the Free Patriotic Movement and the Marada movement, are no longer enthusiastic about it. The plan considers Lebanon a single district and allows each sect to vote for its own MPs under a proportional representation system. But Berri has proposed a hybrid plan that combines the winner-takes-all system and proportionality to appease all sides.
Lebanese Pilgrims Appear in Video, Families Say 'We Don't Want to See Any Turk after May 22'
Naharnet/..Lebanese pilgrims, who have been held hostage in Syria since May last year, appeared on a videotape broadcast by two television stations on Saturday and Sunday, as their families warned that they "do not want to see any Turk" in Lebanon after May 22 should Turkey fail to secure the release of their loved ones. The men were seen talking in the footage but the accompanying audio was inaudible when the video was broadcast by al-Jazeera satellite TV station on Saturday.But on Sunday LBCI aired the video in which the nine kidnapped men said they were doing well and sent regards to their families.They said the video dated to April 30.
The pilgrims backed a demand by their kidnappers to set free Syrian women held by authorities in Syria in return for their own release, al-Jazeera said. Earlier this week, the pan-Arab television al-Mayadeen reported that the abductors have demanded the release of 282 women detainees from Syrian prisons. The kidnappers have reportedly submitted a list of the names of the detainees to a high-ranking diplomatic figure and a Turkish official handed the list to Lebanon's General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim.
On Sunday afternoon, the relatives of the abductees staged a sit-in outside the headquarters of the Turkish UNIFIL contingent in southern Lebanon to press for the release of their loved ones.
Some of the relatives said the video published by Turkey's Anatolia news agency did not reassure them, noting that the hostages appeared to be in bad shape and that the video does not confirm that they are in good health.
The families warned that they will step up their protests against Turkish interests despite the broadcasting of the video.
“We don't want to see a single Turk outside the headquarters of the Turkish contingent after May 22,” the families threatened. They carried pictures of the nine hostages and banners saying the Turkish government is responsible for their safety and promising to escalate protests until their relatives are released. “They were on a pilgrimage to the holy sites (in Iran), not on any other mission like the kidnappers are claiming,” said one of the protesters. Protesters also called on Colonel Hasan Erturk, the commander of the Turkish contingent, to convey their demands to his government instead of breaking his promise “like he did after the previous sit-in six months ago.”
During the sit-in, a number of the abductees' relatives advanced towards the headquarters' gate and wrote slogans on the surrounding walls. Among the slogans were “You are here to protect peace, but your mission turned into protecting terrorism” and “O Ottomans, your presence provokes us.” “There are no red lines in our protests,” Hayat Awali, representative of the Imam Sadr Tours, warned. Meanwhile, a number of protesters started knocking on the gate of the Turkish base, demanding that they be allowed to meet Colonel Erturk, who only let five of them enter the base to meet him. Lebanese security forces accompanying the sit-in dispersed the other protesters who approached the headquarters and kept them away from its gate, the National News Agency reported.
Eleven Lebanese pilgrims were kidnapped by armed rebels in Syria's Aleppo region as they were making their way back home by land from a pilgrimage to Iran on May 22.
Two of them have since been released, while the rest are still reportedly being held in the town of Aazaz. The families of the pilgrims have held Turkey and Qatar responsible for their ordeal, while accusing the Lebanese government of not exerting enough efforts to secure their release. They have held daily sit-ins to press for their demands to set the nine men free.
At Least 30 Wounded in Blast at Tanzanian Church
Naharnet /At least 30 people were injured including three seriously in an explosion Sunday at a church in the northern Tanzanian city of Arusha, police said. "There have been 30 people wounded, three in a serious condition, and one person has been arrested," said regional police chief Liberatus Sabas. It was not immediately clear what caused the explosion. "This is a sad day, our security forces are mobilized, and the culprits will be arrested and brought to justice," said Arusha's commissioner Magesa Mulongo. "For the time being we don't know if it is a bomb," he added. The blast took place outside a Roman Catholic church in Arusha, a town popular with tourists visiting the nearby Serengeti national park and snowcapped Mount Kilimanjaro. Source/Agence France Presse.
Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Beirut
Elias Audeh Calls for Unity Around Suleiman, Holding Polls on Time
Naharnet/Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Beirut Elias Audeh called on Sunday for the elections to be held on time and for the Lebanese to unify around President Michel Suleiman.
“Criticizing the president is similar to cursing your father,” Audeh said in his Easter sermon at the St. George cathedral in downtown Beirut. “The elections should be held on time ...There should be unity around the president to bring life to the democratic life,” he said. “Most of the leaders in the country are dictators but speak of democracy,” he mocked. Audeh rejected attacks on religious sites and slammed the recent kidnap-for-ransom phenomena.
“Civilization is based on the respect of other people's freedoms,” he said. “Civilization is not about wealth, cars and mansions. Civilization is not a computer or a smartphone or social networking. It is dialogue, peace, justice and values,” he added. Audeh hoped that all abductees would return home and that Aleppo's Greek Orthodox Bishop Boulos Yaziji and Syriac Orthodox Bishop Yohanna Ibrahim would be released. They were kidnapped last month by armed men en route to the northern city of Aleppo from the Turkish border. Audeh also called for dialogue, saying “the fire of extremism will harm everyone.”“Let us go back to our humanitarian values and work for the benefit of the country. Every citizen is a full partner but no one can impose his opinion on the other,” he stressed. Audeh lamented that the economic situation is becoming worse and the security situation has gone backwards.
No 'Happy Easter': The Muslim
Brotherhood's Bizarre Religious Intolerance
By: Eric Trager/The Atlantic/Washington Institute
President Morsi and the Brotherhood are deploying Islam primarily as a rhetorical device for maintaining internal unity and distinguishing themselves from their rivals.
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi's decision not to attend this coming Sunday's Coptic Easter mass was entirely predictable. Morsi, after all, declined to attend Pope Tawadros II's November investiture and, during his previous stint as chairman of the Muslim Brotherhood's political party, Morsi visited a church on Christmas but made a point of emphasizing that he exited before services started. Yet because Morsi's decision comes on the heels of a Brotherhood fatwa prohibiting Muslims from wishing Christians a "Happy Easter," Morsi's coldness towards Christians reflects a central paradox of the Brotherhood's Islamism: despite its longtime promise to "implement the sharia" upon achieving power, the Brotherhood only offers specific interpretations of Islamic legal principles when it needs to justify its most intolerant impulses.
The fatwa, authored by Brotherhood leader Abdel Rahman al-Barr, is noteworthy for its degree of analytical detail. In it, Barr quotes extensively from the Qur'an to argue that Muslims should only greet Christians on their holidays "so long as this greeting does not come at the expense of our [Islamic] religion." In other words, Barr writes, Muslims cannot wish Christians a "Happy Easter," because "our belief as Muslims, which makes ambiguity impossible, is that [Jesus] wasn't killed or crucified," though Muslims can greet Christians on Easter with the non-sectarian Arabic salutation "kulu sana wa-entum tayyibun," which roughly means "hope you are well this year" and is used for all sorts of occasions, including birthdays. By contrast, he adds, wishing Christians a "Merry Christmas" is permissible, because Muslims view Jesus as a human prophet and thus acknowledge his birth.
While this fatwa did little to assuage concerns regarding the Brotherhood's view of minorities, the Easter ruling's specificity strikes a sharp contrast with the Brotherhood's otherwise vacuous approach towards interpreting the sharia for crafting policy. While the Brotherhood technically embraces the jurisprudential doctrine known as istislah, in which Islamic legal principles are interpreted to achieve "societal benefits," the vagueness of this outlook has long enabled Brotherhood leaders to avoid explaining how they would "implement the sharia" once empowered. This obfuscation has persisted even since Morsi's June 2012 electoral victory.
Indeed, compare the specificity of Barr's fatwa on greeting Christians on Easter with the list of bromides that Brotherhood leader Farid Ismail threw at me during a July 2012 interview, when I asked him what policies would change once Morsi implemented sharia. "It means peace, security, equality, citizenship, freedom, and giving rights for people despite their religion or ethics or color or sex," said Ismail, declining to identify a single specific policy that would change when I pressed further. It is the type of answer that even Muslim Brothers in positions of executive authority continue to give nearly a year later. "Everything I'm doing is sharia!" Kafr el-Sheikh Governor Saad al-Husseini, a top Brotherhood figure, proclaimed to me this past February. "Justice is sharia. War against corruption is sharia. Security is sharia...Improving the economy is the sharia. This is the sharia. To preserve the dignity of Egyptians is the sharia...Day and night we are with poor before rich. This is sharia!"
With such an ill-formed view of what the sharia implies for policy, it is no wonder that the Brotherhood's tenure as Egypt's ruling party has yielded so few distinctively Islamic laws. And the Brotherhood will likely continue to embrace this content-free sharia, for two reasons:
First, by keeping its sharia approach vague, the Brotherhood is able to prevent internal fissures from emerging that could potentially undermine its organizational integrity, which it views as vital to consolidating its power. The Brotherhood thus envisions itself as a disciplined vanguard, which -- according to former Brotherhood spokesman Ibrahim al-Houdaiby -- "focuses on recruitment and empowering the organization while postponing all intellectual questions." To prevent potential fissures, the Brotherhood thus frames its views in specific sharia terms only when it seeks to justify certain theocratic ideas on which its cadres broadly agree, such as in its calls for banning the sale of alcohol, outlawing bikinis, and the "Happy Easter" prohibition.
Second, the Brotherhood's vague sharia approach allows it to justify everything it does as Islamic, while casting its opponents as enemies of Islam who are thereby deserving of punishment. Barr, the Brotherhood leader who issued the fatwa prohibiting Muslims from wishing Christians a Happy Easter, was actually quite explicit on this point when I interviewed him in July 2012. "When we implement the sharia, we will first try to ease the concerns of the people, implementing [it] through cooperation that safeguards freedom and dignity and accomplishes justice," Barr said, echoing familiar cliches. "Then, if someone comes and breaches this, punishments will be brought against him for not accepting this, for the dignity of life and [based on] a correct [Islamic] education," continued Barr, adding that sharia had penalties for all offenses, including "attacking the finances or attacking the mind." Sadly, Barr's call for punishing those who "breach" this broadly-defined sharia has been implemented under Morsi: more journalists have been prosecuted for insulting the president during Morsi's ten months in office than during Mubarak's thirty years in power, and many of these individuals are also being tried for insulting Islam.
So while the Brotherhood is certainly an Islamist organization, the vagueness of its Islamism reveals its most salient characteristic: namely, its totalitarianism, which deploys Islam primarily as a rhetorical device for maintaining internal unity and distinguishing itself from its potential enemies. It interprets sharia coherently (even if offensively) only when it can emphasize its differences with these enemies, such as through its current argument that Muslims' theological differences with Christians should trump the harmless pleasantry of wishing someone a Happy Easter. This is why Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood's president, won't be a president for all Egyptians. Totalitarianism has no room for tolerance.
*Eric Trager is the Next Generation fellow at The Washington Institute.